Edward R Richards Orpen of Monksgrange, Wexford | Jeremy Hill
Served in the Army Services Corps
Edward R Richards Orpen was my maternal grandfather. He was born in 1884. His father was the noted historian of the Anglo-Norman period of Irish history, Goddard Henry Orpen of Monksgrange and he was also distantly related to the Irish portrait painter, William Orpen. In civilian life Edward was a farmer and a mechanical engineer. In late 1916, aged 32 and married with a young family, he volunteered for the Army Services Corps. The ASC had the vital task of supplying food, equipment and ammunition to the soldiers at the front, which often brought its officers and men into the firing line. By early 1917, Edward had been promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and by the end of the war to acting Captain. This latter promotion was on the recommendation of a senior officer who said of Edward that he was “an excellent officer in every way. Has a variety of attainments and is a first class engineer, though that is not his profession. He has been under my command for about 8 months, acting as an instructor and has carried out his duties to my entire satisfaction … His technical abilities would, in my opinion, be wasted in a staff appointment. Ability and professional knowledge, power to maintain discipline, power of leadership, knowledge, capacity and tact for training are all excellent.” Edward kept a detailed journal of his period in the ASC and wrote more than 314 letters to his wife, Margaret back in Monksgrange. Of his time at the front he wrote: “ I think we [the ASC] seldom complained except at the mud and wet weather. We tended to understand the difficulties of others and in consequence were satisfied to put up with things that in other circumstances would be regarded as intolerable. We always had at the back of our minds the knowledge that so many millions were so much worse off and exposed to both risks and discomforts infinitely greater, that any form of grumbling on our part was not done.” After the war, Edward returned to civilian life and later served as an independent in the Irish Senate.
Richards Orpen in uniform; ASC and HQCD badge; ASC badge and identity tag; character reference; Identity details; Identity folder; wallet with pics of wife and children; Map of the western front 1914-18; ‘On Guard’ manual;